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Is food taxable in Washington?

by Sarah Craig February 28, 2024

Please note: This blog was originally published in 2020. It’s since been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

Every state is a little different when it comes to how they handle sales tax. Sales tax on food can be an especially contentious issue. Some states tax all food, but many other tax food differently than other items. This post will go over how the state of Washington wants retailers to charge sales tax on groceries, drinks and prepared food.

Are groceries taxable in Washington?

Grocery items are generally tax exempt in Washington state. 

Are meals taxable in Washington?

Prepared food is generally taxable in the state of Washington. According to the Washington Department of Revenue, meals are taxable as defined by law when the seller:

  • Combines two or more food ingredients and sells it as a single item (see certain exclusions below);
  • Sells the food in a heated state or heats the food; or
  • Sells the food with eating utensils such as a plate, fork, knife, spoon or glass/cup straw. (Note: Utensils do not include containers and packaging used for transporting food.)

Bakery items are generally tax exempt in Washington as long as they are sold without utensils. If they are sold with utensils they are considered a meal and thus taxable. 

Are beverages taxable in Washington?

Soft drinks, like soda, are taxable in Washington. However, drinks that contain more than 50% fruit or vegetable juice or that contain milk as an ingredient are not considered soft drinks.

How to always collect the correct amount of sales tax in Washington

Do you sell groceries, meals or beverages? Are you required to collect sales tax in Washington? Then this may sound like a huge headache. 

That’s where TaxJar can help. 

With the TaxJar API, you can be sure you’re collecting the right amount of sales tax on every transaction. Our product tax codes ensure you do collect sales tax on that soft drink but don’t collect sales tax on that plain coffee drink. 

Not to mention, most e-commerce businesses have nexus in multiple states. For example, groceries are taxable in some states, but non-taxable in others. Or, like Washington, where certain drinks are taxable depending on their fruit or vegetable juice content. With TaxJar, you’ll collect the right amount of sales tax from every customer, in every state, every time.

Further food and meal taxability resources:

Ready to automate sales tax collection, reporting and filing? Click here for more on how TaxJar can take the headache out of sales tax in your food & beverage business.

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